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Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Page: 264

Ministry


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. I refer to comments by the foreign minister and deputy Liberal leader, Ms Bishop, in which she refused to back Joe Hockey as Treasurer and said that his appointment was, and I quote, 'the Prime Minister's call'. I asked the minister: is this another captain's call the Prime Minister is looking to reverse?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:00): One of the big differences between the Labor Party and the coalition is that the frontbench of the coalition is chosen on the basis of merit, not on the basis of factional servitude. That is why we have this array on Labor's frontbench in this place—and the other place—of incompetence writ large.

There is nothing spectacular about that which Ms Bishop said—namely, the Prime Minister appoints the ministry. There is a history within the Liberal Party that the deputy leader normally and usually chooses his or her own portfolio; other than that, all the other portfolios are allocated by the Prime Minister. So absolutely nothing new in that revelation. And for Senator Wong to think that that is a matter that is worthy of the first question at question time betrays the fact that this is an opposition devoid of policy, devoid of alternatives, to put to the Australian people.

In relation to the Prime Minister and his ministry, the Prime Minister has confidence in each and every one of his ministers and that is why they are in the positions that they hold. For Senator Wong to lead the charge when she used to come into this place with blood all over her hands from Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard, it indicates not only the paucity of the argument but the hypocrisy of her argument.


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:02): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I refer to Ms Bishop's refusal this morning to disclose whether or not she had supported the Prime Minister in the spill ballot. I also refer to the fact that six ministers are reported to have supported the spill motion yesterday. Has the Prime Minister sought an assurance from Ms Bishop that she voted against the spill and was that assurance given?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:03): As I had the great pleasure of informing this chamber yesterday—and I do so again today—we actually have genuine secret ballots in the Liberal Party party room. There is no show-and-tell to the factional war lord to say, 'This is how I voted and because I voted like this will you please guarantee my re-endorsement?' That is the way it works in the Labor Party. It is not the way that it works on this side of the chamber. We are honourable men and women and we trust each other with a secret ballot.

In relation to media reports that, allegedly, six ministers voted one way or another way, can I simply say to Senator Wong: it was a secret ballot. Nobody knows. There is speculation. So what? But can I ask, Mr President, whether the ventilation of this issue creates jobs in Australia, reduces the cost of living in Australia or helps create wealth for our nation? (Time expired)


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:04): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. I refer to the leaking of a private conversation to a journalist prior to the ballot, in which the foreign minister informed the Prime Minister he was, and I quote, 'his own worst enemy'. Does the Prime Minister believe that the foreign minister leaked this private conversation?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, the first two questions have been within the purview of the minister. I am going to leave the minister to decide whether he wishes to answer that question or not. There are elements of that question which I think do not constitute a correct question.



Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:04): Whether something is allegedly leaked or not and what was actually—

Senator Wong: It was in the paper! It's a direct quote.

Senator ABETZ: Senator Wong has shown us now the incredible cerebral prowess that she enjoys. She can read a newspaper and then regurgitate it in the Senate without any basis as to whether it may have any factual basis. I simply say to the honourable senator: I do not spend my waking moments reading newspaper gossip columns and then determining whether it may or may not be right. I spend my waking hours seeking to serve this nation—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Senator Wong, on a point of order.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on a point of order: it is all very nice for the minister to give us a homily about his motivation. The actual question was whether or not the Prime Minister believed that his deputy had leaked a private conversation to the media.

The PRESIDENT: I allowed the minister to answer the question in the manner in which he wishes to answer. Minister, you are relevant. You have 14 seconds.

Senator ABETZ: The Prime Minister, like me, does not spend his waking moments worrying about these things. We worry about creating jobs. We worry about getting rid of the carbon tax. We worry about the Labor Party reintroducing the carbon tax. (Time expired)